The contact tracing application in England and Wales will soon request more shared details with positive test.
The NHS COVID-19 app’s recent updates have started adding QR code venue check-ins to the requested information for sharing upon the receipt of a positive coronavirus test.
The update was added to the application before the nations re-opened their stores on April 12.
The purpose of the additional sharing of QR code venue check-ins in the case of a positive COVID-19 test result is that authorities want to be able to notify other visitors to a location that they should be tested due to exposure. The tracing makes it possible for people who were in the same place at the same time as someone subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus to take appropriate actions.
That said, authorities are assuring users that the system was created to protect their anonymity. Whether they have had a positive test or not, the app is not meant for tracking an individual person, only connecting a positive test with potential exposures.
In this way, the QR code venue check-ins don’t identify the specific individuals affected.
“The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus not people, and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy,” explained a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson quoted by the BBC.
The quick response code scanning had, until now, only flagged a location as a potential hotspot for the virus by way of other means. Once a location had been identified, additional steps would be used for checking each phone to see if it had been present at any of the affected venues during the times when exposure may have happened. Only then would an alert be sent to the device user.
That said, despite over 106 million check-ins, that strategy has rarely been used as it is clunky and not all that efficient. Moreover, those responsible for taking the additional steps were already being stretched too thin to be able to take on the extra work.
Authorities hope that by using the QR code venue check-ins to permit sharing upon a positive test, the automation of the system will allow it to become considerably more usable and helpful.